Wednesday, October 04, 2006

CD Review: Mr. Brown by Sleepy Brown

Best known for contributing his smooth vocals to OutKast's hit single “The Way You Move,” Sleepy Brown has waited a long time for his chance to shine. As part of Organized Noize, the production crew behind OutKast's first two albums, he helped shape the sound of southern hip-hop. After the success of his first single “I Can't Wait” from the soundtrack to Barbershop 2, he saw his album, Grown And Sexy, shelved by his then label Interscope Records. Now signed to Big Boi's Purple Ribbon Entertainment, he's finally released his debut album, Mr. Brown. It's an enjoyable album with an old-school feel that should appeal to contemporary and classic R & B fans alike.

Given Sleepy Brown's long track record of hip-hop production, you might expect to see a slew of guest stars on his debut. For better or worse, that isn't the case on Mr. Brown. The focus is squarely on Sleepy Brown. With the refrains of “It's me” in the chorus, “I'm Soul,” the album's opener, reintroduces listeners to Brown. However, there's more chorus on this song than lyrics and those lyrics are a little lacking: “Everybody's watching me / Say pretty lady /Are you hungry? / We can go somewhere / Get some buffalo wings / That's soul.”

Things do get better later in the album and there are some very good songs to be found on Mr. Brown. “One Of Dem Nights” is a full-scale trip back to the 1970's with its funky sound and use of live instruments. “Me, My Baby, & My Cadillac” uses a sample from “Maybe Tomorrow” to become a fun, catchy song that should be the next single if it isn't already. Brown adopts an electronically deepened pitch for the freaky, Prince-esque “Oh Ho Hum.” Brown and guest star Joi trade come ons on the song and its funky, lumbering pace makes it seem shorter than it is. “I Can't Wait,” which features OutKast, is also included on the album, although it gets an unnecessary string-filled intro.

Sleepy Brown does what he can to show himself off on Mr. Brown and for the most part, the results are good. The album does have its share of shortcomings, though. For one thing, many of the songs sound too similar to each other and make too little of an impact. It would have been nice for there to have been one or two more collaborations with other artists to help break up the monotony. Also, there are times (such as on the song “Dress Up”) where Sleepy Brown sounds less like himself and more like Pharrell Williams (who ironically appears on the song “Margarita”). Yet, there are relatively few R & B artists making the type of music Sleepy Brown does on this album and that makes Mr. Brown worth listening to. I think Sleepy Brown certainly has a future as a solo artist and I hope that next time, he can bring us an album that can stand up to the old-school greats he admires.

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